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The War on the Cross

(From History/Bridgeman Images).
(From History/Bridgeman Images).

Christians frequently ask me why Jewish people struggle with the image of a cross. My response is always the same, “It’s the history attached to the cross that gives Jewish people a reason to eschew this symbol sacred to Christians.” Who is responsible for this theological war waged on the New Covenant significance of the cross?

In the past 200 years, Christians have shouldered the sign of the cross in their wars on so-called infidels. Even today, followers of Jesus brandish the cross at political events. Onlookers are led to believe the Christian message is in full support of various civic causes-good and bad-when the cross is displayed at these protests.

Hence, there has been a war on the cross in ancient Christian history. This same confusion regarding the biblical significance of the cross is apparent when evangelicals glue the cross symbol to contemporary secular political aspirations.

To elaborate on this pressing question uttered by Jewish people, I authored an article in 2016. I used the subtitle “The Roots of the Problem of the Cross in the Eyes of Jewish People.”

In this short piece, l focused on the torrid history of the medieval Crusades. Recently I revised this composition and added additional insights.

In this revised article, I am mostly concerned with several parallels of the Crusader mentality leaking into modern evangelical Christianity’s political stance. The imagery of the cross as the vehicle of God’s spiritual redemption is distorted by a cadre of Christians. Sadly, these actions confuse many Jewish and non-Jewish people.

The Cross Appears Where It Should Not Be

For the past 5-6 years, the cross symbol has appeared at political rallies as a Christian stamp of approval of an event, a candidate, or a political ideology. Zealous Christians are hijacking the cross imagery for their purposes. In their patriotic fervor, the protestors seem unaware of the military stigmas attached to the cross from the Crusaders.

For example, at the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol Building, both peaceful and militant evangelicals wielded the cross as they protested the national vote that elected Joe Biden as president. From a well-researched article on Christian nationalism from the Joint Baptist Committee, we learn:

One of the most ubiquitous symbols on January 6 was the Christian cross. Latin crosses are “the principal symbol of Christianity around the world,” according to the Supreme Court, and, as used on January 6 by the insurrectionists, one of the clearest displays of Christian nationalism.

Sword & shield with light-painting illumination

They [participants at January 6 event] erected an 8-foot wooden cross in Freedom Plaza (at the White House end of Pennsylvania Avenue) and another 8-foot tall cross at the Capitol that became disturbingly iconic after the crowd prayed around it

The Cross is Used to Send a Message It Should Not Give

I embrace the American freedom to express one’s political views. Nonetheless, I am stunned at how the flagrant use of the biblical symbol of divine pardon is thoughtlessly attached to extreme right-wing politics. For further information on the appearance of Christian symbolism at the January 6 event, click here.

How can the redemptive symbol of Christianity be conjoined with any form of partisan politics? Does any political group possess the authority to utilize the crucifix icon to support their cause?

The way I see it, when a political faction adopts the image of the cross in connection with their viewpoint, this action implies their perspective is THE authoritative Christian way of thinking. The message is clear: Any faithful follower of Yeshua (Jesus) will and should back any ideology that commanders the cross to bolster their outlook.

This misuse of the cross to support a secular political effort is reminiscent of the militant Crusaders who affixed the cross to their shields as they rampaged across Western Europe.

Need I say modern evangelical patriots are NOT determined to harm anyone as the Crusaders did. Nevertheless, when the cross is displayed at an event where government property is destroyed, attacks on law enforcement personnel take place, and anger is unleashed on dissenters, how is the redemption promise of the Messiah communicated?

My title, “The War on the Cross,” describes how the misuse of the cross by followers of the crucified Messiah clouds our salvation declaration. Rather than zero in on those who reject the good news of salvation, believers in Jesus need to discern how we can be the ones making war on the message of the death of the Suffering Servant.

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Andy Stanley’s Scapegoating of the Jewish Scriptures

It’s about time! Some evangelical superstar had to say something. We can no longer ignore the gorilla of extreme conservative politics running berserk in today’s evangelical Church. In Pastor Andy Stanley’s book, “Not In It To Win It,” the author boldly goes where most evangelical leaders fear to tread.

The pastor of North Point Church in Alpharetta, GA is exasperated over the current trend of evangelicals who align themselves with right-wing conservative elements. He raises eyebrows in his criticism of pastors, Christian podcasters, and leaders who “lined up behind their political party of choice and leveraged our sacred text to validate political talking points.”

Most importantly, Pastor Stanley recognizes this development is detrimental to the cause of bringing the good news of redemption to all people.

In past generations, Christians broke down our culture into those who know Jesus and those who don’t. Instead, a significant segment of evangelicals has divided our society politically into the Left and the Right.

A few months back, I was amazed listening to a message by modern-day “prophet” and evangelist Mario Murillo in which he stated the “enemy of the Christian is the Democrats.” Even Jesus did not designate the Romans or the Sadducees as enemies of His followers. Yeshua viewed His day’s political and religious parties as lost sheep in need of salvation, not ideological adversaries.

Evangelicals have turned a new corner where Jesus’ followers are intent on changing our world through endorsing political efforts, passing laws that reflect conservative principles, and supporting Right-wing candidates regardless of their ties to white Christian nationalism. Stanley points out that Jesus no longer changes lives in this revised evangelical era. Instead, Right-wing political activism is the key to the transformation of our broken society.

The past five years have been extremely challenging since I am not 100% on board with the angry tenor of evangelical conservative politics. I’ve witnessed ridicule and rejection from fellow evangelicals on social media because of my convictions.

Brotherhood in the Lord has been trumped by something or someone else. I sense my spiritual connection to certain Christians is no longer enough.

Nevertheless, I consider myself an independent who embraces the core tenets of conservatism.

We are not here to “win” elections, argues Stanley, but for a greater purpose: to radiate the love and compassion of Yeshua to bring non-believers to His redeeming power.

The key takeaway points I gained from “Not In It To Win It” (NIITWI), in addition to my observations, are as follows:

*Evangelicals have shifted the focus from sharing the good news to supporting political causes

*Evangelicals have opted to cancel fellow Christians who do not align with their conservative political viewpoint

*Evangelicals are placing their trust in political activism to change America’s culture more than the power of the Messiah Jesus

*Evangelicals have little issue aligning themselves with Right-wing politicians and talk show media stars who have the reputation of being white nationalist and even antisemitic

*Evangelicals have revised the Christian message as one bent on saving America rather than Americans.

*Evangelicals have no biblical basis for espousing the idea God made a covenant with America.

In Matthew 3:2 the prophet John the Baptizer in the New Covenant admonished his fellow Jewish seekers, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Today many evangelicals have revised John’s call to prepare oneself for the coming of God’s kingdom on earth. Today Matthew 3:2 has been revised to say, “Vote, for the kingdom of God is at hand.”

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Proverbs for Living Skillfully

Automaker Henry Ford hired electrical genius Charlie Steinmetz to build the generators for his factory. One day the generators came grinding to a halt, and the technicians couldn’t find the problem.  Ford called Steinmetz, who tinkered with the machines for a few hours and then threw the switch. The generators whirred to life–but Ford got a bill for $10,000 from Steinmetz.  Flabbergasted, the rather tightfisted car maker inquired why the bill was so high.

Steinmetz’s reply: For tinkering with the generators, $10. For knowing where to tinker, $9,990. Ford paid the bill (Today in the Word, MBI, April 1990, p. 27.).

Today we place more value on our unproductive, frantic efforts than the wisdom involved in “knowing where to tinker.”  After all, “knowing where to tinker” is more than a mere indicator of knowledge, but a sign of wisdom.  Anyone can offer a reasonable guess regarding the nature of a problem we are facing. However, it takes wisdom to know how to apply that speculation and make a wise choice that leads to a resolve.

Nested in the midst of the books of Wisdom (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Solomon, Ecclesiastes) is a goldmine of biblical counsel for learning how to live skillfully. King Solomon’s Book of Proverbs is a much neglected biblical work that contains timeless truths that show us “where to tinker” in the major issues we face everyday.51727466 - skill ability qualification performance talent concept

One of the areas where followers of Jesus are forever tinkering in trying to determine God’s will. Christians spend precious time in this endless and often fruitless pursuit. Good news!  The Book of Proverbs is God’s guidebook for finding His will. This is the major source in the Scriptures that reveals not merely the information about God’s will, but discloses “where to tinker.”

Once we have read and understood this work of wisdom, we will no longer need to speak of “discovering God’s will.”  His plan for our lives becomes more apparent the deeper we dig within Solomon’s volume of wisdom.

Besides being a manual that enables us to understand the ways of God, the Book of Proverbs describes the qualities of spiritual character. As we will discover in Solomon’s sayings, possessing spiritual character goes hand-in-hand with grasping the will of God. (more…)




Do We Need to Repent To Be Forgiven?

The question of forgiving one another has plagued me ever since I became a follower of Jesus.  I heard many pastors and Bible teachers comment on this subject, but I did not feel they were teaching the message of the biblical text.  Instead, what I was hearing was  helpful common sense advice and psychological healthy ways to look at the way we should forgive one another.

Recently a good friend of mine whom I deeply respect, challenged me on my beliefs regarding the need for repentance as a condition for forgiveness.

Where I agree on this issue with my friend is that we both are in harmony that for a person to be reconciled with God, there must be a display of contriteness or repentance to experience the eternal forgiveness of God.  This is designated “vertical forgiveness” because it takes place between man and God.

iStock_000003523715Medium

Forgive One Another

Where my friend and I disagree is whether or not repentance is necessary when we as humans forgive one another.  If I offend another person, do I need to go to that person or have that person come to me so that I can confess my sin, state my intention to repent and ask for that person’s forgiveness?

My friend’s viewpoint is that we can forgive the other person through the forgiveness Jesus obtained for us through His death on the cross. The grace of God shown in the sacrificial death of Yeshua on the cross should so overwhelm us, that the natural outflow of our awe towards God’s love is to forgive others because God has shown His merciful forgiveness to us through His Son.

There is not always the need for repentance when there is “vertical forgiveness.”  On the basis of the atonement we have in the Messiah, we forgive one another. with or without any display of repentance. In the Sermon on the Mount, in the Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6:12, we read, “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors (NIV).  (more…)




Did Those Six Million Jews Die for You?

Auschwitz entrance

The Entrance to Auschwitz

By now the controversy surrounding the Jews for Jesus video “That Jew Died for You” has simmered down. Still the strong negative reaction by the Jewish community to the JFJ evangelistic effort remains a stain on Jewish-Christian relations.

At the release of the video prior to Holocaust Remembrance Day, a Jews for Jesus press release, explained the video seeks “to help redefine the conversation and reshape views of Jesus and His relationship to the Holocaust.”

The intentions of JFJ in the production of this video were honorable and aimed to initiate conversation among Jewish people regarding Christianity’s relationship to the murder of six million Jews under the evil Nazi regime.

David Brickner, Executive Director of  JFJ offered his public commentary on the video, “The horrors of the Holocaust and the 6 million who died has gnawed at the consciousness of Jews for over 60 years. We want Jewish people to understand that the sufferings inflicted at the hands of the Nazi’s were in no way based on the teachings of Jesus (underlining mine). In fact, he suffered and died on our behalf to show us the love of God.”

Oddly, the majority of Jewish people do not think the teachings of Jesus are responsible for the horrors of the Holocaust. Rather, the Jewish community is  more concerned with the antisemitic attitudes of  Eastern European Christians prior to and during World War II that helped fuel the racist ideology behind the  Holocaust. (more…)




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